Tackling Transphobia

Student effort underway for trans inclusion in nightlife

by Yusef Najafi
Published on April 16, 2009, 12:00am | Comments

Nightlife in D.C. is not as transgender-inclusive as it ought to be. At least, not according to Equality, Campus Style, a coalition of local GLBT and ally student activists from different universities in Metropolitan Washington.

''We've decided that what we want to pursue is a trans-ally visibility campaign,'' says Travis Ballie about the group's D.C. Committee for a Trans Inclusive Nightlife. Travis, a 20-year-old student at American University, identifies as "queer."

The group is planning to canvas in front of local gay clubs and bars in an effort to inform patrons about how to avoid ''unsafe situations,'' as well as ask them to be trans allies by wearing buttons that read ''trans ally'' and joining the group's e-mail listserv.

Equality, Campus Style formally announced the formation of the new effort during a forum-like phone conference on Tuesday, April 14. The group promoted the call through the social networking Web site Facebook, after news spread of two transgender men who were verbally harassed and assaulted at Dupont Circle's Fab Lounge on Feb. 28 by a small group of women at the bar.

''What piqued the interest of Equality, Campus Style was the fact that the two trans men attacked were attacked in a queer establishment,'' Ballie says. One of those men is Mitch Graffeo, 40, who shared his story on the Tuesday call.

Speaking to Metro Weekly prior to the call, Graffeo said his involvement with Equality, Campus Style comes as a result of the altercation, providing him a way to speak out about larger issues of transgender inclusion and transphobia in the gay community.

''Since the 1950s or '60s, the LGBT community has been struggling, and some people gave the ultimate sacrifice for this community to be heard and to be able to go out to bars,'' Graffeo says. ''There was a time when gay people could not be seen in public and couldn't go to bars. We would be killed or hurt for that. We didn't have the same kind of rights that we have now. A lot of work has been done.

''It was very frustrating to see that people who have been enjoying those freedoms themselves are taking those freedoms away from others within the same community.''